Originally Published: November 24, 2009
Author: John Hood
Many murders. And expect that they be committed in the most gruesome ways imaginable. The authorities apparently know the identity of both the culprit and the victims and they insist the situation is well in hand.
On the eve of the arrival in Glasgow of Alice Cooper's Theatre of Death, alarm bells should be ringing up and down the river. When he comes to town, no-one is truly safe.
Of course murder won't be the only mayhem Glaswegians will have to contend with when the of king of shock rock takes the landmark stage at the Clyde Auditorium; it only happens to be part of a much larger spectacle. The rest will be pure surprise.
"We work six months out of the year, every year, all around the world," Cooper explains. "I got to the point of saying, 'You know what, I think everybody's now figured out my formula for the show. Let's turn it upside down and backwards, so that even the most staunch Alice Cooper fan will not be able to figure out what we're doing.'"
"And so we did everything opposite of what we normally do", continues Cooper. "Normally when they kill Alice, they do it at the end of the show. In this show they kill Alice four times. It's just we figured if one execution works, let's do it four times in four different ways and make a spectacle out of it."
Spectacle or not, it's still somehow difficult to believe that Cooper needs to be killed so many times.
"Every time that Alice gets it, he kind of deserves it," insists Cooper. "They cut his head off, then they put a giant needle through him. They hang him. He somehow ends up in a nurse's outfit. Then there's this box we put him in with these giant spikes that go through it."
In other words, it's the kind of rock theatre Cooper fans have come to know, love and expect since he added an electric chair to the Seventies tour of the Love It To Death album. And if subsequent additions of gallows and guillotines implied a little staginess, well, it was not without purpose.
"It's always been like a dark comedy, vaudeville, hard rock show. It's always got to be hard rock. I'm guitar rock all the way. But why not make it come to life? I've always said, make the lyrics come to life.
"The whole show is actually very lyrical the way it's run. I added a lot of new things. Of course, we did three weeks of rehearsal, 12 hours a day, and all of that was on the music. I said, 'If you don't have this music down to the point where the audience goes, "Yeah!" then let's not even do the theatrics.' Because without the music, the theatrics don't work at all.
"I put a band together and just really, really nailed this one down. I want the audience to hear it, then see it."
What they'll hear is a career-spanning 28-song set that includes some of the most beloved songs in the history of hard rock. What they'll see is an over-the-top staging from Olivier Award-winning Broadway director Robert Jess Roth.
"Rob is an old friend of mine and he's a rock'n'roll fan," Cooper says. "When I told him what I was going to do he was like, 'Let me direct it.' And I went, 'Absolutely. Because you're going to bring stuff to it that I wouldn't have thought of'."
Roth, of course, is the man behind The Vampire Lestat and the blockbuster Beauty and the Beast.
"When I saw Beauty and Beast I looked at it and I went, 'Holy crap.' Now that's what you can do with a lot of money. There were eight or nine different layers of theatrics going on and I went, 'What!' I don't want to go that far because I want to keep it rock'n'roll. But I certainly do want it to look as slick as that."
Slick it is, and eminently tuneful. From School's Out (which both opens and closes the show) through Only Women Bleed and Be My Lover to Billion Dollar Babies, a perfectly rousing show closer.
"Oh yeah. That's the encore and the audience gets covered in money. I think every single song has got some theatrical device to it. Some are more elaborate, others are just hand props. I wanted to make this show like Hellzapoppin'. If you look away you're going to miss something."
References to slapstick-riddled 1938 Broadway musicals aside, Cooper claims he wouldn't continue if he couldn't keep things fresh, for himself and for the fans.
"I feel obligated to the fans that go to every show. I mean there are people who literally go to every show. We go to London, there are people that take their vacation and they go to all 14 shows."
Of the 28 songs and the elaborate staging, Cooper does have his personal favorite.
"I think Ballad of Dwight Frye is one of those songs that I really like doing in front of the audience. Because it's Alice in straightjacket in a cold blue light, very claustrophobic and it's pure Alice."
Dwight Frye or otherwise, Cooper never tires of any of his songs.
"I hate to rehearse them. But when I get the band on stage and that song, Mr Nice Guy starts, or Billion Dollar Babies or any of those songs start, the audience, the look on their face. It's like the look of recognition. It's awesome.
"But I feel the same way. I went to see McCartney. I've known Paul for 35 years. I saw him backstage and I said, 'Let me see a set list.' I looked at it and I said, 'This is great.' I'm sitting in the front row with my wife (and he sings)...I Saw Her Standing There. And I was 16 again, jumping up and down going, 'Yeaah.' I mean it."
On Wednesday night, when the lights go down and a roar of sound washes over the crowd, Cooper the fan, Cooper the star and Cooper the legend will all be in evidence. But it will be Cooper the ringleader of madness and mayhem who will both kill and be killed. And there's not a damn thing anybody can do about it.
(Originally published online at the Herald Scotland website, on 24th November 2009.